What does your nutrition, mood, exercise, productivity, ideal daily schedule and even sex life have to do with where you are at in your menstrual cycle? EVERYTHING!
In this episode, we dive deep into aligning with your menstrual cycles so you can live a life of harmony, radiance and joy with the natural shifts.
Connect with Alisa at @floliving and get her new book In The Flo for more!
Track your menstrual cycle and begin each day with peace, clarity + joy with my new A Yogic Path Reflective Journal.
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Episode 305: Working With Your Menstrual Cycle for Optimal Living with Alisa Vitti
By Sahara Rose
Namaste. It’s Sahara Rose and welcome back to The Highest Self Podcast, a place where we discuss what makes you, your soul's highest evolvement.
I hope, wherever you are, you are comfortable, you are safe, you are warm and you are enjoying your summer, enjoying your time at home, and your time inward. This is a very different summer for all of us. A summer that doesn’t have camps and trips, but has a lot of opportunities to do the things that we really love and really bring us joy, and to really tune into what that is for you.
For me, it is dancing. I’m always talking about dancing and I have my new Healing and Embodiment Through Dance Course which is available for you (I have the link over in the show notes) and I have been doing a lot of painting, catching up with old friends – just taking more space, taking more time, doing a lot more breath-work, a lot longer meditations, plants, gardening, and just feeling my heart.
So, I am very, very excited for today’s Podcast episode because it is all about tuning into these rhythms that are within you, that did not just begin now this quarantine, but have actually existed in your body your entire life, especially as a feminine being, a womb-man, meaning a woman that has a womb. You are not the same as men biologically. Men operate, as we’ll speak about in this podcast, with the circadian rhythm cycles, which means every 24 hours their bodies repeat themselves - they feel the same at 4pm as they did the day before (granted of course maybe different things happening that day) but biologically they feel the same every single day, it’s a 24hour system. Whereas for us, feminine beings, we have our infradian rhythm cycles which is actually based around a 28-days cycle in relationship with our menstrual cycle as well as the Moon cycle. So, that is what we dive into in today’s Podcast episode.
I sit down with Alisa Vitti who many of you know, and if not, you are in for a real treat. She is the author of the bestselling book “Woman Code” and really one of the first people who was sharing from a scientific level the relationship between woman’s menstrual cycle and the types of foods that are best for her; exercise practices, even work-life schedules, relationships, sex-life, all of these things, and how it is do deeply related with where you are in your menstrual cycle.
So, we talk about this. She breaks down the four phases of your menstrual cycle which are: menstruation (of course), follicular phase (which is right after your menstrual cycle), ovulation (which is the peak), and the luteal phase (which is moving then into the menstruation phase). And we all go through this when you are in the menstruation age of your life and it is so important for us to learn about these things because then we can actually live our optimal lives based on how we are at that moment of time. So, again, we aren’t the same at 4pm every single day, so if we can take ourselves off the hook and instead of wondering “Why don’t I feel as energized today? Or, why do I want to do a different work-out? Or why am I craving different foods?” instead of kicking yourselves over it – “Well, maybe, I’m in a different phase of my menstrual cycle right now.”
I know, I have definitely been catering what I eat; how I exercise according to my menstrual cycle, and it has been so helpful, and that is why in my new Yogic Path journal I have a little space for you every single day to write what phase of your menstrual cycle you are in, so you can be working with that in your everyday lives.
So, I sit down with the Queen of all things menstrual cycle, Alisa Vitti, to really dive deep into this topic. I ask her many questions I have had; we dive deep into how it affects all areas of your life, especially ones that you may not be as familiar with that she speaks about in her book “In The Flow” and I know you are going to unlock some major codes that help you live your life in a more aligned way, and I am super-excited to share this wisdom with you.
So, without further ado, let’s welcome Alisa Vitti to The Highest Self Podcast.
And before we get started, I have an announcement for you.
Are you ready to transform your life, elevate your spirituality, and finally live in complete alignment with your soul? Are you ready to tap into your divine feminine and activate your innate magic? Are you ready to transmute your shadows and embody your fullest expression?
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For 1:45h we dive deep into the her-story of Goddess Isis, her Mythology and Symbology, and how to work with her medicine. I teach you the seven-step process of Alchemy and how it applies to spiritual awareness and personal liberation. We dive deep into transmuting wounds from our maternal lineage and uncovering shame around our femininity. We’ll re-discover the trust and access we each have to the Divine Feminine, and how you are already tapped into her magic.
Through journal prompts and reflective questions you’ll find out where your specific blocks are and where your possibilities are as well for your summer of transformation. I share with you a variety of Goddess Isis rituals – from a tongue-clearing ritual to an Isis - rite of passage and how to work with her in your current meditations and alter.
If Divine Feminine Magic, Wisdom and Alchemy calls your name, then this Goddess Isis circle is for you. You can purchase it individually over at the link in the show notes (rosegoldgoddessed.com/isis) or also get it as part of your membership in Rose Gold Goddesses which includes so much more. As part of your membership you will have access to the other 10 other Goddess circles we have done in the past from Saraswati, to Lakshmi, to Yemaya, to Quan Yin, Bridget and so much more; my Healing and Embodiment Through Dance Workshop which is a 3.5h workshop of spoken and follow-along dance; my Awaken Your Powers master class with Shaman Durek; my 10-day Discover Your Dharma course and so much more. All of this is available for you in Rose Gold Goddesses and I’m so excited to elevate your consciousness and share this magic with you.
You can find the link over at the show notes – rosegoldgoddesses.com or rosegoldgoddesses.com/Isis for just the Isis circle and I’m so excited to meet you inside.
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Welcome Alisa to The Highest Self Podcast, it’s so great to have you here.
Thanks for having me, I’m so happy to be here Sahara.
So, you have pretty much written the Bible for the feminine being. It is so good, both of your books “Woman Code” and the new one “In The Flow” are so amazing and I have so many questions, our listeners have questions, there is so much that we want to dive into. But before we get started, I’d love to ask you what makes you your highest self?
What makes me my highest self? I guess, really, it’s love. I love being able to help others and serve other women in their quest to get healthier and connect with their feminine. I love being a mom to my little girl, and these acts of love always require me to become increasingly self-aware to take more and more personal accountability for my actions and keep me in a place of being connected to my higher self.
I love that. And truly, everything that youdo put out there is helping us love ourselves. So not only is it something you love, but it’s teaching us to really honor ourselves.
So, when I was reading your story in “In The Flow” of just doing the right things; you were creative as a kid and then you began to try really hard at school and get the good grades and do all the right things, but still feeling like your body is off. And I think that’s something so many women can connect to, of like “I’m living the life that they’re telling me to live and this doesn’t feel like my whole being is being integrated.”
So, I’d love to ask you a little bit about what made you get into really working with the menstrual cycle, something that was especially so taboo when you started 20+ years ago?
Yeah, it really was. Well, I guess for me, it really came down to the fact that between the ages of 12 - 22, I didn’t menstruate more than a handful of times, maybe five or six times (a couple of which were chemically induced with synthetic progesterone), and everybody else was menstruating (at least everybody else I knew of). And I just, really, was able to observe what I was missing out on in a way that it was let’s say not so much in the conscious but there was this like subconscious feeling of loss, and that really inspired me to reclaim my own health; but certainly, it was also just the actual physical experience of being so hormonally dysfunctional, where I was over 200lbs and covered in cystic acne and not menstruating, and not sleeping, and having anxiety and depression, and just not developing physically in a way that seemed normal, and everything was just really off. And my journey to understand what was wrong and then to get well was really transformative, after many years of not being diagnosed and finally helped by a doctor finally diagnose me with PCOS, and then understanding the limitations of conventional gynecology that really they didn’t have anything to cure me. You know, that was sort of an eye-opening moment, like “Oh, I’ve got to take matters into my own hands” and I certainly have done that and was able to watch my body transform, and recover, and heal. And I’m very happy to share that I’ve been ovulating and menstruating since the age of 22, but that I had missed out on that whole decade, and that that was completely avoidable had I been given the correct information and healing support (programs, products, tools, whatever it was that I needed). That really still motivates me to this day, to make sure that every woman has access to the products and programs and tools that I’ve built for Flow Living, because this sort of lack of hormonal health-care that we have it is unacceptable, we deserve more as women in our health, and I think the frontlines of that are in the menstrual health-care conversation. We need more than just articles and organic products; we need a way to actually understand what’s happening with our bodies and what to do when things go awry, and you know, I’m really proud to have built the world’s first modern menstrual health-care company to help achieve that for women around the world.
And I’ll say the one other thing before my own journey that I think was really a sign on the road of life of how I ended up loving this so much was my very first exposure to superience which was sixth grade Sex-Ed class, and growing up as the daughter of immigrant parents, there was zero, I mean zero, conversation about it. So, I went into it without any of the traditional pre-conditioning that I think most of us receive – you know, the curse, I never heard anybody talking about it at all (I know that sounds crazy but that is the culture from which I come, there was complete no discussion). So when I first heard about the fact that I would menstruate, I was awestruck and I could see that my classmates were not, and it was a very interesting experience to grow up without any negative messaging about the cycle and that my first reaction to it was so positive. So, I think that too really spurs me on as well because again, it’s all just in the information. If you’re given a different set of conversations as a young girl about how positive, and healthy, and wonderful this aspect of your health can be, and correct scientific information about how it works and how to care for it, your experience could be positive as well. And it’s only because of the negative toxic messaging that we receive and the lack of information and health-care that we receive that we have this negative experience. And that’s something that I am on fire and on a mission to correct.
I love that so much and I think every single woman listening right now can relate to having a menstrual cycle that they think is wrong, or different, or weird. Myself, I had hypothalamic amenorrhea when I - it was diagnosed when I was 20, 21 and doctors just told me, because I was no longer producing any estrogen or testosterone, I literally had zero estrogen and maybe 2 testosterone when I got my blood test, and they just told me “Well you’re never going to be able to have a child, this is just what your body is doing right now.” And that feeling of helplessness and that feeling that my body has failed me; and it’s so sad that so many of us, we trust our doctors, and I think they’re doing the best that they can with their knowledge, but it’s just that my body has failed me and now I have to live with this and for yourself, with PCOS, to amenorrhea, to so many other different period abnormal – would you even call them abnormalities or would you say that this is actually common and it’s making us feel like they’re abnormal?
Well, I mean, I would say that the rise of menstrual disorders (I would call them disorders) comes from the fact that we are unknowingly doing things that disrupt our system and that then produces symptoms or disorder. That’s the bad news and that’s on the rise across the board. The good news is, whatever you have done to create the chaos, can be undone, and that’s certainly the message of Flow Living is if you change your inputs, your cycle will perform differently - period! And I love when women have this experience of really confronting that particular myth, like the one that you just shared which is “Oh, now you’re stuck with this for life” – once your period is dysfunctional that’s it, you know, your mom had it, every woman in your family has fibroids so that’s your curse or whatever you’ve been told to believe. And then you confront that by changing your food, your lifestyle, your relationship to your cycle, and then all of a sudden it changes, and then the mythology just dissolves that never was true – it’s just that when you believe in something it becomes true, it’s a funny thing about that.
So, I would say they’re more common now because of all the challenges women’s hormones face, you know, in a polluted environment with chemicals and pesticides and all the stuff in your products – if you haven’t gone green with your make-up and home care, home-cleaning products (it’s really time - I outline that in my first book “Woman Code”). But you really need to take a much more proactive, protective stance when it comes to your hormones. I mean, 100 years ago, if you were living in a more rural environment, growing your own food, women were not suffering with as many of these disorders, but as we’re modernized and urbanized, it’s becoming an increasing problem.
Yeas, so true! It’s like the disorder has become the norm and it’s important for us to talk about it and important for us to see that it’s not something that we have. I mean everyone just growing up like “Oh, I’m pre-menstrual,” “Oh, she’s about to get her period” it created this idea of like ‘before your period, you’re supposed to be crazy’ it’s like, as you talk about in your book, that’s actually not supposed to happen, it’s just so common today that we have created this relationship..
We’ve normalized it, but you’re right, it’s not supposed to happen.
So, there is so much that I want to ask you. So, let’s talk about the infradian cycle and how it is different than the circadian cycles that kind of all of us were raised to only understand?
So, I want to back up and say that, you know. Before I write a book, I guess I ask myself a question that takes me a few years to answer. So, the question that I had been asking myself before I wrote “In The Flow” was – Why are so many women sick compared to men? In fact, 47% of women are suffering from hormone issues, and when we compare that to the male cohort, it’s something like under 1’%. And I wanted to understand why and I was also looking at and I know you have been following this as well, in the past five years, we’ve had a menstrual renaissance for God sakes; we have women posting pictures of their menstrual blood on Instagram; we have so many articles..
The Moon Facials.
Mood Facials and just even talking about the period of the Moon and your period. I’ve been a part of collaborations with Harper’s Bazar about menstruation – the past five years compared to the entire twenty-something years I’ve been doing this have been historic in the sense that I’ve never seen a period of time in all of recorded human history where we have talked about periods in such a public and positive way. So when I looked at that I was saying “Okay, great!” Now we have more information and because of the Internet and sort of the global media (an experience that we’re all a part of) women have more access, which we’re been historically not able to have (whether that’s been on purpose or not is another conversation) more information, more access should equal more healthier women right? But it’s not the case. 47% of women are struggling with their hormones, so that was really, I couldn’t let that question go.
The question I asked for “Woman Code” was – How do we get the endocrine system to return to homeostasis; What is the process by which we do that so symptoms can resolve on their own? And I answered that in “Woman Code” in Flow Protocol as a specific sequence of steps that you take to rebalance your endocrine system, and whatever menstrual disorder and set of symptoms you have can resolve. But this question I was asking for this book – Why is this happening in the first place? Not how do we fix it, but why is this happening in the first place? And what I found were two pretty shocking, ground-breaking pieces of information.
The first is that women are being left out of medical, fitness and nutrition research. It’s a big problem in the medical community, they’re aware of it – 1996 the NIH put together a special Task Force Committee to really encourage researchers to include women in their clinical trials. As of 2016 the status report was that progress has been slim to none, and it’s a problem that the medical community is aware of because they know that without adequate studies being done on women, that that increases their mortality rate – so they’re interested in resolving that. The fitness and nutrition piece is frustrating because anything that you’ve seen up until what I’m about to tell you; any diet; any fitness trend; any food trend; any of it, all that has been researched to optimize male hormonal, metabolic biochemistry. And when you take it in and use it in your own system, it disrupts your hormonal biochemistry which you know subconsciously because you don’t feel good or something goes more wonky with your period or you’re not losing the weight that you want to lose (and I’ll get more into that in a little bit) that was the first big, sort of, WOW piece of research to answer that question of why are 47% of women suffering and men are not. Well, of course, if they’re having all this research done on them and they’re being given these wonderful options with nutrition and fitness, and ways to take care of themselves, they’re going to be healthier, right? with more accuracy. Okay, that’s the first piece.
Then the second piece was this infradian rhythm. I am (it’s shocking to say this) I am the first person to write a book about the infradian rhythm, it’s called “In The Flow” and in fact, I’ve been doing podcasts with doctors who’ve never heard of the term before. Okay, so here we are, but let me explain it to you. You have a second biological clock. Everyone, all human beings, have a circadian rhythm, but, from your very first period to your very last bleed, you have this second biological rhythm that is active and it’s called the Infradian Rhythm. Circadian is the biological rhythm that you experience over the course of 24hours, the Infradian Rhythm is the biological rhythm that you experience over the course of a month, over the course of your cycle. But, just like the circadian rhythm is not simply about when you wake up and when you go to sleep, it governs when you have for example, peaks and valleys in your blood pressure, naturally, throughout the 24hours; or when you’re more prone to injury if you’re using your body during that 24hour period; or when you’re going to have the best digestive juices; or when you’re going to have your bowel movements; it governs a lot of systems in the body.
And when you disrupt the circadian rhythm it has short-term and long-term health effects, right? Similarly, the infradian rhythm governs much more than when you have your period, right? It turns out that it impacts your brain, your metabolism, your immune system, your microbiome, your stress-response system, and your reproductive system (including your sex drive and fertility) - So, it goes way beyond your period. And when you look at these two pieces of research that I unearthed about the lack of research on women, and this infradian rhythm, no wonder women are way more disrupted hormonally than men, because everything that you’re doing with your self-care is fundamentally disrupting your infradian rhythm, and therefore causing those six-systems of your body to perform sub-optimally at first, and then to lead to symptoms, and disorders, and disease, as you go along. And it’s just so important that we understand this because now, I didn’t just want to paint a picture frame around this is the problem, but I also created a solution which is called The Cycle-Syncing Method, and really understanding what’s at stake for you not to support your infradian rhythm I think is important (I’m a person who’s motivated by the ‘whys’ this is good for me to know the science behind it before I do something) and I think a lot of us are like that; and we should feel a little, what’s the word, jaded, maybe, I mean, how many of us have tried like 17 different diets and fitness plans, and only to be disappointed and frustrated.
Oh, I was a raw vegan and that’s what led to my amenorrhea. Well, we can dive into all different diets and why they’re terrible for you.
But, yeah, I mean exactly that, so we feel a little wary of taking on something new, but that’s what’s so exciting about the information that I put in this book for you. It’s that you can really, for the first time, in your whole life, be given the correct scientifically accurate information about your entire female operating system, from your brain to your immune system, to your microbiome, to your metabolism, your stress-response system, and how the infradian rhythm influences it; how you’re different each week of the month and what that means; and I give you a chat by chart by chart plan (you’ve read the book, now you’ve said that there are a lot of charts in the book) for each of these things. There’s a chart for what to eat when; there’s a chart for which work-outs to do when; there’s a whole brand new time-management system that I designed (the world’s first time-management planner that incorporates both the circadian and infradian because of course you have both; you must manage your time based on both biological rhythms, otherwise you’re going to disrupt one of them); there’s a chart for how to apply the cognitive shifts that take place. In 1996 Dr. Catherine Woolley at Northwestern University discovered that the female brain changes structurally by 25% over the course of the month as influenced by the infradian rhythm. So your approach to solving problems and creativity and communication shift, and you can plan on success by understanding when these things are happening. There’s a chart for work; there’s a chart for your relationship and your sex drive; there’s a chart for motherhood.
You can have your best health and your best life by supporting the infradian rhythm, and it’s just so revolutionary, I’m just so excited for women to finally have something that is based on their biology and not just hoping that what works for men might work for them when it never has, and only led us to be constantly frustrated with ourselves unnecessarily, to develop an inner critical voice that is just so harsh (which we shouldn’t have) and worse (which is the worst of it all) to get sick, which we shouldn’t be.
So good! And I can so relate because when I was studying Ayurveda, it was only based on the circadian rhythm cycle and it really went into depth, and we are still affected by the circadian rhythm cycle, but I was like “What about our menstrual cycle, where is that?” And when I began to dig deeper I saw that, and as you speak about the different cycles (I’ll kind of talk about the different Doshas) and it is there but because Ayurveda is typically male doctors who pass a launch to their male counterparts, they kind of left that out. And so, you see it happen in all forms of medical systems and now finally, the past five years or so, we’re like “Hey, where are our bodies at? We’re not exactly the same as you” and it makes total sense that all of these studies, all of this research out there (we’ll talk about fasting, Keto, all of these different things that we’re all just sort of doing because we’re reading the research and it’s good for us – is it who is it good for?). So thank you so much on behalf of all vagina owners everywhere for bringing this to surface and being such a pioneer in this movement and I would love to kind of walk through our menstrual cycle and talk about just the different changes that we should be making in our diet and our exercise.
So, let’s start with follicular.
Well, yeah, let’s start. I guess the way I love to break it down is to have you understand the effect the infradian rhythm has on your metabolism and your stress-response system (so we can do food and fitness at the same time).
So, in the first half of your cycle which I define as the follicular and the ovulatory, and you can still count that I have a whole section about this in the book. Well aren’t we supposed to count Day 1 as the first day of our bleed? Sure, (although that system was created by men) but anybody who experiences a cycle understands that the beginning of your cycle is not the bleeding part, that’s the culmination, that’s the end of the process, it’s not the beginning. So, the first half of your cycle, follicular and ovulatory – your metabolism slows down. So, you need fewer calories and from a stress-response point of view, you have lower production of cortisol at rest. So, what this means is that you can eat fewer calories and you can do more intense exercise. And when you do those two things together, you optimize your metabolism, your blood sugar stability, your mood, your energy, your building lean muscle and using your stored fat as fuel, optimally – it’s a wonderful thing. So, the food chat that you’ll find in Chapter Four of “In The Flow” it factors in your metabolic shift across each phase in the cycle and it also uses food to help you either produce more of the hormones that you need, for example in the luteal phase (which I’ll speak to in a minute) and using food to help you flush out the hormones that your body is producing, especially estrogen, which so many of us with disordered cycles, have too much of. So for example, during ovulation, if you break-out on your chin and if you have breast tenderness or bloating, or you feel weird, or you have ovarian pain from ovulation, all of this is stemming from excess estrogen and you’ll find that the foods in the chart will really help you flush that out much more efficiently than anything that you’ve ever done before. So, it’s factoring in those two things that’s the basis, the logic behind the food chart - it’s how do we take into account the metabolic shift and also the hormonal ratio needs. So, that’s what you’re doing in the first half, and you’re eating lighter foods, more raw foods, smoothies and salads, steamed things, it’s all outlined for you there in the follicular and the ovulatory phases, and you’re doing your higher-intensity work-outs.
Okay, now, research is conclusive about this - once you cross the ovulation, now you’re in the luteal phase. And the second half of the cycle, luteal and menstrual, your metabolism speeds up and the resting amounts of cortisol are higher. So, what the studies have shown is that you need 279 more calories per day (very precise) and you must not, never ever, do high-intensity interval training post-ovulation because if you were to continue to restrict calories as is good for you in the first half of the cycle, and continue to do that high-intensity interval training that is good for you in the first half of the cycle, if you continue to try to be the same (which is how you’ve been conditioned you’re supposed to be – eat the same calories every day, do the same intense work-out every day, and that’s how you’re going to be “perfect”) if you do that post-ovulation, you turn on fat storage and you turn on muscle wasting, you destabilize your blood sugar, you increase cortisol production, you steel from pregnenolone alone and decrease progesterone production, you create PMS from a hormonal ratio point of view in the body by having not enough progesterone to counter effect the estrogen in that phase, and you destabilize your mood and have all of the symptoms that you don’t want to have.
So, it’s super important that you honor the effect of the infradian rhythm on this half of the cycle by eating more calories every day (279), slow sustainable burning carbohydrates whether that’s legumes, or whole-grains, or root vegetables, or whatever works for your digestion, there’s no hard and fast, you have to have a brown rice bowl (you’ll see that there are options in the chart). And then you’re going to be eating foods that help you make more progesterone, flush out excess estrogen, and you’re going to be doing work-outs that are about strength training without a cardio component. And in this way, when you do this, you’re going to keep your blood sugar stable, you’re not going to be jacking up cortisol production, you’re not going to have anxiety, you’re going to feel symptom-free from PMS point of view, and you’re going to have all the energy that you need to do whatever it is that you want to do in that phase of your life.
We’ll take a quick break so I can give a shout-out to our sponsors.
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And this is so major. So, a couple of years ago I decided to do this boxing membership, so I though because I’m a member I should go as much as possible, and I ended up gaining fat throughout my whole body. Like fat and I was like “This doesn’t make sense because I’m literally working out harder than I ever have in my life, I’m supposed to be building muscle, I’m freaking punching a bag with all of my strength” and it was because I was doing the exact same intense work-out throughout the month. And as you outlined in your book, that first half of my cycle, it might have been maybe helping me gain muscle and lose fat, but the second half it was coming back even more. And you share in your book that maybe the best outcome of doing the same work-out throughout the month is that we remain the same, but the worst is that we end up gaining weight.
Can you share about your client who was the triathlon runner and what happened with her?
Yeah. This was something that came across my brain, my thought process about 15 years ago, with at that time – you know, there’s always some ridiculous trend that is not helpful for people.
So, there was the Master Cleanse, The Cabbage Soup Diet, I mean, there are so many things that people do that are extreme. And one of them was training for a triathlon to get in shape, very extreme stuff. Now, if that’s your thing and you’re a competitive athlete, that’s awesome, but if you’re just an average person who’s not trained like that, that can feel extreme. Okay, so she comes to me after having trained for six months and competed, and she said “I really don’t understand, my period is a disaster; my PMS is like the most I’ve ever had and my period has become irregular” and she’s gained 20lbs, and she’s like “I literally don’t understand how this is possible because I bike, swim or ran five miles a day; one of those things each day for the past six months, and I ate what I was supposed to eat and I wasn’t starving myself. You need to explain why this has happened to me because it defies all reason and logic.” And she said “And my trainer doesn’t, he was a guy and he doesn’t understand it. What is going on?” I remember having that experience too myself, when I was first obese and trying to go to the gym, pushing myself to do the same work-outs every day and just not getting any results and the male trainers literally would say to me “I don’t understand why this is happening, this shouldn’t be happening” they were completely confused and no one, of course, was factoring in, and this was my teen years, no one was factoring this in in any way, shape or form.
And so, it’s really frustrating that so many of us have pushed ourselves so hard and been so disciplined, and yet, because you’re doing something that is disruptive to your biology and you don’t know it, at the end, instead of feeling like “Oh, I just did the wrong work-out plan, that regime didn’t work for my biology” instead, you feel time and time again like a failure, you feel super-critical of yourself, you assume that you did something wrong, it becomes this whole negative self-experience right? More of that self-hatred towards the body, more of this experience that having a female body is a battle that you have to constantly fight to gain control – you’re just playing the wrong game, all together, and so of course you’re frustrated. But the explanation to why this happened – there was this funny commercial for a weight-loss supplement for women (the weight-loss product was called Ally). The commercial was really cute and really true. It was like this little cartoon drawing and it was like Susie and Jim want to go on a diet and fitness program together at the start of the month. At the end of the month Jim looks like a Greek God and Susie’s fat and frustrated. And poor Susie, she just needs help, she needs an ally, and so here’s the pill.
So, it’s really not so much about that, it’s really, the problem is that Susie did the same work-out that Jim was doing and ate the same calories every day and did the same work-out every day. And if you do that and you have ovaries and you are in your reproductive years with an active infradian rhythm, you will disrupt your metabolism and your stress-response system, and reproductive system to the point where you’re gaining weight, your mood is going to be disrupted and your cycle’s going to be disrupted (not to mention your fertility and your sex drive). Those things will happen to you, so don’t do it, so don’t to it is the point of the story.
So what if you were doing something throughout the month like Yoga, Pilates, Bar, that’s not intense? Is that something you can do throughout?
Yeah, you can do that yeah. It’s really just you have to time the high-intensity and cardio appropriately, but anything that’s like, let’s say strength training without a cardio component (like Pilates, like Yoga, like Walking). See, walking is one of those ubiquitous activities because that is the ideal activity, fitness-wise, for humans; we’re designed to walk (that’s what’s special about us in the kingdom of all different species) and so walking is optimal for so many systems of your body, so you can do that at any time.
Now, in the first half of your cycle, you might speed-walk and really get that cardio going. In the second half, you might just walk normally, without it being like a whole thing. So, you can do that throughout; you can do Pilates and Yoga throughout, and Bar throughout. It’s the high-intensity interval training; it’s like boot-camp, boxing, jumping up and down, anything that’s really intense cardio – you want to do that the first half of your cycle and then you want to take a break second half. But, still be active, still be doing your fitness, just change it up. And there’s a chart that will tell you all the different types of work-outs that you could possibly play with.
You’re not going to feel like you’re not working out, trust me. You’re going to be working out every day; it’s just not going to be the same. We’re going to obviously, you and I Sahara, we’re going to talk about a lot of things on the course of this Podcast. But, if you take nothing away, if it’s like all this amazing new information – it’s a lot, it feels like a lot. If you take one thing away, the thing I want you to remember the most is – I want you to stop asking the question What’s the right diet? What’s the work-out I’m supposed to do every day? I want you to drop the ‘What’ and I want you to insert instead, replace the ‘What’ with ‘When’ – When should I do it? When is it optimal for my infradian rhythm? And if you start asking the question ‘When’ then everything will get better.
I love that so much. And it really does remind me of the Doshas, you know that first part of the cycle where you talk about ‘do more cardio’ and ‘eat more light foods’ and ‘burn off that energy’ – it’s the Kapha balancing. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but it’s enlightening. And then the ovulation, when your system gets more hot and you can do more of the silence and spooning, it’s the Pitta. And then going into when your menstrual cycle is beginning then you go more inwards, you need more warm foods, grounding foods, and your menstrual cycle is Vata. So it is amazing how universal that these systems are and how related they are to the Seasons. And another question that a listener had was – What if you feel like you have energy to exercise on your menstrual cycle, can you still do it or would it be harmful for you?
You have to trust your body and you have to start becoming a citizen scientist for yourself. So, you’ll find that the Cycle-Syncing Method that I created is not like any other program that you’ve ever looked at. Because in other programs, there is this binary masculine and you’re either doing it correctly or you’re doing it incorrectly. With Cycle-Syncing, this is a very fluid, intuitive process because, for example, even the way that your body transitions through the phases, it’s not like one day you’re follicular and the ‘poom’ the next day you’re ovulatory – No! There’s a flow to that. There’s a reason why everything about my brand is about this concept of flow because that is how the female body functions. And so too, you may for example, be asking a question that is really more “At the end of my cycle I start to feel energy and I might want to do a bigger work-out” because that may be really what you’re asking. And if that’s the case I would say you should go for it; you should maybe start the cardio because you’re now flowing into the early parts of the follicular phase, because you’re period is ending, you’re on the last day or two of your bleed; now we’re starting to move energetically into the follicular phase, and if that’s where you’re feeling the energy flowing, then try it out, and your body will tell you right away if you’re theory is correct or not.
I have an example I share in the book about, I was going through a phase where I was back into running, and running is really high-intense cardio, but I was post-ovulation for a few days feeling like I really still craved that activity, so I did it the day after ovulation – no problem; the second day after ovulation – no problem; the third day after ovulation was OK; fourth day crashed me out for two days, so I was like “Okay”, I was flowing out of ovulatory phase, flowing into luteal. There’s a lot of room for you to play, it’s not this binary masculine right or wrong; yes or no; on or off method – it’s your body and you’re a fluid, dynamic biological creature, so your approach to it, you shouldn’t even be asking yourself questions “Is it right or wrong?” It should be “Let me try it and see how it feels for me and collect the data, so I know what’s true for my body right now.”
So true! And another thing that has come up for me is sometimes I have things scheduled that I can’t change, let’s say it’s my Speaking Tour or my Wedding, both of which I had my period during. So, what can we do if we have these things that do require us really being on and in our masculine kind of, in our energy, but we’re on our menstrual cycle?
So, I was menstruating during my wedding too, and I was menstruating during my TED Talk, and I actually think that’s hugely advantageous. So, again, just let’s pause first right into the answer. Let’s pause and really feel into the question that you’re asking.
The question that you are asking really gets to the heart of the judgment and the negative association we have with bleeding. “What if I’m bleeding and I have things I want to do? Oh-oh! Right?” We assume a problem. When you are getting out of this sort of circadian, patriarchal, masculine conditioning, and re-conditioning yourself to look at life through the lens of your own infradian biological rhythm, that question falls away totally, right? It isn’t just “Oh no what if I have things that are coming up at the wrong phase, it’s (and this is what the planner speaks too) it’s just, things will come up whenever they come up and you will be in whatever phase you’re in; and instead, you’ll say “What do I need to do from a self-care point of view to thrive while I’m doing these things that may not be in alignment with the energy of that phase?” So, for example, at my wedding, what was wonderful about being in my menstrual phase was that, because during the bleeding week your right and left hemisphere of the brain are able to communicate more effectively across the corpus callosum, my intuition, my sense of connection to a more sacred ritual of whatever was going on at the wedding was heightened. It was a very deeply special sacred experience to be married, to go though the ceremony the way that I did it with my husband, but I chose not to give a big speech that day, I said instead “I just wanted to receive” so my husband gave this beautiful, loving, wonderful talk that I was receiving, any my friends; I just received, I made that choice (and I’m somebody who teaches and loves to speak, and I gave myself that gift). And I did whatever other self-care – eating, what I needed to do, and it was completely fine. There was no dip in my energy, there was no pain, there was no problem, it was wonderful.
So, I think it really comes down to – we all have to do a little bit of belief clean-up work when it comes to our periods because the conditioning that you received from such a young age is so powerful, and I put one of the quotes from my TED Talk that Gloria Steinem said a long time age which is just, I think, one of the most important things that you can hear, she said “From a young age, little boys are taught to use their bodies as tools to master their environment, whereas little girls are taught to view their bodies as unending projects to work on.” And I highlight the words ‘use’ and ‘view’ because what is at the core of that; what’s the distinction here is that if you’re given a tool and you’re not taught what the tool is, the mechanics of the tool, how to use the tool, then the tool is just this random thing. So the boys are taught everything about their operating system (their bodies) so that they can use it, engage with it in a positive, proactive way with positive self-talk and understanding that that’s their best vehicle to succeed in their lives.
Little girls, however, are not given that information about their operating systems, instead, they’re given misinformation and toxic mythology, so it creates this separation, a distance, you're outside of yourself looking at it. You’re like a little hungry person with their face pressed up against the glass of a bakery and you’re looking inside at the good bread, but you don’t know how to go get it. And so, you’re viewing your body as this project that you have to work on to somehow get the goods out of it but you have no road map, you’re given no information. And it’s important that you understand that that has happened to you and that should cause you some emotional experience. And I write about that extensively in the last chapter of the book because every time I teach this is what comes up in the room. It’s like there’s this sadness, and frustration, and anger, and disbelief.
And so, all those feelings are valid, at the same time you then have to become a gardener, you have to go into the garden of your mind and weed out those toxic thought roots that say your period is a problem or whatever it is, anything that’s, those negative messages about being female or having a cycle, you have to bring them to the surface and pull them out so that your questions become healthier for yourself. Like “How can I use my body as a tool? How can I use my bleeding week during my wedding? How can I use my menstruation to give a better talk during my book tour? (I was bleeding on the second half of my book tour in L.A. – it was not a problem; I did KTLA – it’s fine) How do I use it?” Not “Oh no, what should I do to compensate for this liability?” That’s the patriarchal conditioning “Oh no, my period the liability, how do I overcome it?” There’s nothing to overcome. The way out is actually in, into your body; into your infradian rhythm; into all of this that is you.
I love that so much and what a beautiful reframe. And I think a lot of us, especially spiritual women, as we educate ourselves on all of the different things, we’re like “Okay, now I’ve got to get my life in alignment with my period, and the Moon cycles, and the Doshas, and the Vedic cycles, and this and that” and it’s like this never ending list, and we approach it in that same patriarchal way even though it’s a different context of things. So, remembering that everything is working for us. I think we also see a lot of people who at the first half of their menstrual cycle turn off social media, completely unplug, nest in their homes, and then that can create, at least for me when I see that of “Should I be doing that? Should I be totally unplugging? Am I not honoring my menstruation enough?”
So, what is your recommendation on when we are bleeding, how we can best really honor ourselves while still honoring our lives and commitments etc.?
Yeah, I mean it’s really such a personal choice, and it really comes down to how well you’re taking care of yourself.
So, at first, sometimes when we’re recovering from a lifetime of a disrupted infradian rhythm, you may feel and notice energy dips in the second half of your cycle, and you may really need to, at that sort of moment where you’re beginning the cycle-syncing lifestyle, to rest more, to go inward more, to do it in a more what feels in an extreme way for you compared to how you lived prior. But my experience, having been cycle-syncing now for 17/18 years, is that it doesn’t have to be so extreme or binary, that it is just about these micro-actions of how you honor it. It doesn’t have to be like “Okay, now I’m in my bleeding phase so I’m going to stay in and just do rituals” it doesn’t have to be extreme; it can be about just doing a little bit less social activity, doing a little bit more gentle self-care – the whole experience can be very, much more, as the Buddhist say ‘the middle path.’ Everything about it, it should feel very simple and not complicated and extreme.
So, if your life is about technology or social media, you could for example, do, let’s say, a lot of creating content in the first half of the cycle, and in the second half just responding to questions and connecting in that more emotional way with your community. That’s a way to honor it and still be online the entire time. You see, it’s really about you applying the energetic of that phase to whatever it is you’re doing, there’s no right or wrong way to do it, it’s just what feels good to you. And I think that that’s probably what feels the most overwhelming to women when they get started is that they’re being given 100% freedom, and sovereignty, and leadership to choose their journey; to choose what feels good for them; and no one’s ever asked you to put your pleasure first. So, if it feels a little scary maybe, or strange to try to do that and to know if you’re doing it right. But, you know, your body will give you the cues of whether or not it feels good to you.
So well said, and it really comes back to tuning in. And I love how you also share how scientifically (in the book) that our brains are more intuitive on our menstrual cycle and it goes back to the ‘red tent’ days when the women would gather on their menstrual cycles and share stories, and the men would come to them with questions for the village, and they were so tapped in, and as a society, we would honor that.
Can you share a little bit about the science that shows why we are more intuitive during our menstrual cycles?
Yeah, like I said, it has to do with the fact that the brain hemispheres communicate more actively across the corpus callosum - which is the bundle of nerve fibers that connect (and women have a larger bundle than men). In fact, in one of the earlier chapters of the book I really go out of my way to really showcase the power of the female brain in comparison to male brains; and this is just not because I’m trying to say anything negative about men (not quite the contrary) it’s just because you deserve to have correct information to counteract the cultural conversation that has basically said for millennia that women are the weaker sex, and when we look at the biology it’s just not the case. So, there’s a lot on the brain in the book; and the immune system; and the metabolism; everything, in so many ways. You have an extraordinary operating system. And that’s important for you to read the science behind that because like I said, the millennia of the opposite has been what we’ve had and I think it’s time that we correct the information with reality.
So, because of this, the right and left hemispheres of the brain do different things. One is about processing facts, and one is about processing feelings. And when you’re able to synthesize that together more effectively across the corpus callosum, you’re really a powerhouse of evaluation. Also, during this time, the part of the brain that has to do with intuition is stimulated by those hormones in a particular way and so the place of the brain that is the seat of intuition is stimulated and therefore you have both the ability to be very excellent at evaluating situations and really understanding what is needed to make things work really well, and you have this deep activation of your intuition at the same time. So it’s a pretty powerful combination.
So incredible! And a big question that a lot of listeners has was, what if your cycle is not synced with the Moon, how can we be working with first of all is there something wrong? That was a big question.
No, I love this question. There’s actually a whole little section about it in the book too because I know that this is a popular thing. And I want to say that I love that it’s becoming a popular thing because what it’s speaking to is the desire for women to connect with Nature in this hyper-industrialized complex society that we’re living in. And today we’re recording on Earth Day and you know, the fact of the matter is, women’s bodies and Mother Earth are extremely connected (and we don’t have time to get into that today) but the fact that so many women feel this compelled to connect with the Moon is really speaking to this disconnect that we have in our lifestyles where we’re not living in communion with Nature the way that we have in the vast majority in human history. And it is disruptive to our biology in so many different ways – our biological rhythms and our health.
Now, from a biological rhythm point of view, lunar cycles and the menstrual cycle are two different things. So, now that being said, because of the way that human eyes developed, and the way that the circadian rhythm evolved with basically sunlight and darkness and moonlight, there is some co-relation between if you were living at a time where there was zero light pollution (prior to electricity) and you were living in Nature, the stimulation via the eyes, into the brain, into the pineal gland and then the pituitary gland, and melatonin production; because of the way that the melatonin production affects ovulation and sort of the moonlight factor – there is a little bit of co-relation at that time to potentially ovulating on the Full Moon and menstruating on the New Moon. However, lunar cycles are not infradian in nature, they follow a different pattern that has more to do with tidal waves and other planetary, gravitational forces, and that’s not something that exactly maps out onto the infradian rhythm (though there was some co-relation).
So, the good news is, if your cycle does not follow a lunar pattern and it is increasingly hard for that to be the case because of all the light pollution, you do not need to worry in any way, shape or form that that’s not happening for you. If it’s something that you feel spiritually, that’s important for your journey, then I would encourage you to change your living situation so that you could be out in a place that has less light pollution at night, and then that may start to happen for you (if that is really, really important). But from a health point of you, from you having a healthy cycle-syncing lifestyle, supporting the infradian rhythm, you do not need to be syncing your cycle with the lunar phases.
That’ really important because I think a lot of us think that there must be something wrong with us and we’re not natural enough and it is important.
It’s a nice thing when it happens but it is not (from a health point of view) it is not necessary to happen.
Well thank you so much for all of this incredible information. Your book, as I mentioned, is The Holy Grail for the feminine body. It has everything, and so many other topics that we didn’t get to, but guys, if you’re interested in hearing her speak more deeply into the nutritional science, sex during different times of your cycle, creativity, all of the things, living your life truly in alignment with your cycle with her ‘Cycle-Syncing Method’ you need to get her book “In The Flow.”
So, where can listeners connect with you, get your App, join every incredible offering that you have?
So, if you want to get the book and all the free gifts that come along with it, just go to intheflowbook.com and the App is myflowtracker.com so the App is actually the only App that will help you with the cycle-syncing method. So it will tell you where you are and it will remind you of all the changes that you need to make for each phase and help you schedule that into your calendar.
If you’re having a menstrual disorder that you need support with, I would recommend that you come to flowliving.com and seek out our various online education, supplements or one-on-one support via our virtual portal to help you to address whatever’s going on with your period or your fertility, that’s what it’s there for.
And then on social, you can find everything Flow Living related at Flow Living and you can follow me at alisa.vd
Well thank you so much for all of the effort and love that you put into everything you do. I know so many women are more aligned with their bodies, aligned with their femininity, aligned with the magic that our bodies are. So thank you for helping us reclaim that, and also helping those who may not have believed it without the science merging those two worlds. I truly honor and see you Queen.
Thank you so much for having me and for our beautiful platform where we can even have such special conversations about the feminine. It’s not an everyday occurrence so I really, really appreciate what you have created.
Thank you so much.
How incredible was it to hear all that information about our menstrual cycles. We women are such powerful beings and when we realize this, we stop getting so mad at ourselves for not feeling as energized as you did for your work-out this week, as you did last week, or whatever it is, and realize how powerful your bodies are, how our bodies are reflections of Nature and the world around us, and can just really connect to ourselves in this deeper way. So, I love learning from Alisa Vitti, be sure to check out her books, check out her App. I love her App, I use that for tracking my menstruation and charting when my periods are each month, so I can keep track of that and she is such a wealth of knowledge and someone you can really learn so much from.
Be sure to pre-order my new Yogic Path Journal where, every day, there is space for you to write what stage of your menstrual cycle you are on as well as Set Intentions for each day; Gratitude List; Doshas for each day; Astrology, and so much more. It is available for you for pre-order, there are limited copies available, so be sure to check it out at the link in Bio and I’m soul excited to share this magic with you.
If you loved this episode, I would love to send you a free gift which is the first half of my unreleased book “Eat Right for Your Mind Body Type“. This is a different book than “Eat Feel Fresh“. My first book ever which is not released anywhere, and I am gifting it exclusively to those who leave a review of my podcast in the iTunes store. So all you’ve got to do is head over to iTunes where you’re maybe listening to this podcast and leave a review, take a screenshot that you’ve left it and email it over to me at email@example.com and I will send you back the first half of my unreleased book “Eat Right for Your Mind Body Type“, which goes all into Ayurveda, Doshas, Plant-Based Nutrition, Body Types - all of the things in a really fun and engaging way. So this is my gift to you for free for supporting the podcast. Every single review I personally read. It really helps the podcast be listened to by more people so we can raise the vibration of the planet together, and I am soul grateful to have you on this journey.
Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you on the next episode. Namaste.
Episode 305: Working With Your Menstrual Cycle for Optimal Living with Alisa Vitti
By Sahara Rose